Measure to ice union spending gains $$$, steam

There’s a lot of money piling up behind the proposed ballot measure to ban unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes, including $70,000 in the past week.

In all, I see just short of $1.5 million banked by the “Californians Against Special Interests” campaign committee since the end of April – just over a million by midyear, and almost $493,000 since July 1. The Citizen Power Campaign, which had launched and then abandoned a similar measure early last year, has kicked in $225,000 for this measure, while various Lincoln Clubs have anted up more than $136,000. The biggest individual donor so far, at $200,000, is Edward Bloomfield Jr. of Manhattan Beach – I’m pretty sure that’s laundry-and-real-state mogul William Edward Bloomfield Jr., a prolific contributor to Republican candidates and causes.

The measure, according to its official summary, restricts union political fundraising by prohibiting use of payroll-deducted funds for political purposes; the same restriction would apply to payroll deductions, if any, by corporations or government contractors. It would still allow an “opt-in” – voluntary employee contributions to employer or union committees if authorized yearly in writing. Unions and corporations would be barred from contributing directly or indirectly to candidates and candidate-controlled committees, although other political spending would remain unrestricted – including corporate expenditures from available resources not limited by the payroll deduction prohibition.

The proponents have until Oct. 24 to gather valid signatures from at least 504,760 registered voters in order to put this measure on the ballot next year. If it does go on the ballot, watch the unions commit enormous resources to defeat it, maybe even enough to push it past the proposed repeal of the “Amazon tax” to become 2012’s costliest initiative battle.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.